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Comfort Rating for VR Games? Makes Useful Reference if in Scientific Way

by Camellia   on Mar-28-16 10:22

Comfort Rating for VR Games? Makes Useful Reference if in Scientific Way

Comfort rating: safety ensuring VS can’t work consistently?

At GDC 2016 days ago, VR rocked the whole world--PSVR release date and price announced, VR game lists of Oculus Rift and PSVR are published. Although all the VR games yet to have rating information labeled from ERSB or PEGI, Oculus rates the 30 games announced at GDC 2016 with a comfort rating itself ranging from “comfortable”, “moderate” to “intense” , and “rating pending”. It seems that this rating system primarily provides a reference for gamers.

Comfort Rating for VR Games? Makes Useful Reference if in Scientific Way

Oculus’ CEO Brendan Iribe says, “We are going to monitor the content and make sure that it fits the policy we put up which is this safe and clean environment that everyone can know, and love, and trust just like other popular app stores…You’re going to need to be approved first. Iribe says “We’re going to put comfort ratings on them so you really know what you’re getting.” This could make the Rift safer for people with a high-propensity for nausea, like Iribe says he is. Iribe explains “Something can be comfortable from a disorientation standpoint, where it doesn’t make me feel bad…it doesn’t have crazy locomotion like a roller coaster. But if it is really, really super intense, we do want to give people warnings about that.”

While after GDC, Sony Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida told Digital Spy that PSVR will not use ratings like Oculus Rift’s. As for reasons, Yoshida explained that “it’s very subjective and difficult to work consistently as there’s so much content coming in. What causes the nausea? It’s not like everyone has the same reaction, everybody’s different, and people get used to some experiences.”

Some people doubt that Oculus’ comfort rating doesn’t work well as everybody’s feeling towards the intensity of VR games varies. Meanwhile, effects of a certain game on VR devices are also different, so it’s not quite rational to cover this subjective experience under fixed categories.

Why we need comfort rating

For those who are familiar with VR devices and VR games, it seems to be practical to find out whether a VR game will cause discomfort for them. But since lots of gamers have not played any VR games, or just tried several minutes, it’s hard for them to judge whether the game they want to play will cause discomfort and how intensive it is. If there’s some information telling the possible intense of the game, that’ll be quite useful. In addition, a good comfort rating system can help game developers to produce better game design. After all games are products to be sold to customers, so the feelings of gamers are very important and will support developers on future development. That means developers should make a good balance of amazing game effect and excellent gameplay experience . If there’s a mature rating work on intensity of VR games like what ESRB and PEGI do for age, isn’t it great to companies to target customers and profit better?

Comfort Rating for VR Games? Makes Useful Reference if in Scientific Way

Do make it scientific and comprehensive

According to Carmack, it is the game design rather than VR devices themselves that cause motion sickness. And according to Eurogamer, in Oculus’ current comfort rating system, the games rated as Comfortable all make use of either a stationary or slow-moving camera view; moderate ones are third person with a slow-moving camera; intense games are mostly first-person, or third-person with a fast-moving camera. They maybe the major reason causing discomfort of VR games, but not all reasons. That’s the problem of Oculus.

VR technology produces game with an immersive experience that players will feel like they’re in the game world. That’s the most charming feature of VR game. And since some of the VR games unveiled are in first person view which may also cause discomfort for some players, and so does their fast-moving camera. What if that nausea intensified in VR games as the technology makes the games so real?

Moreover, the advanced VR technology is favored by many horror fans for the improved horror effect achieved by VR, like the horror VR shooter The Brookhaven Experiment launching Vive next month. I suppose the horror effect is multiplied if you play on your VR device for the technology makes the feeling so real.

Reddit user IncognitoVR shared his/her opinions on how to rank VR games and experiences. The criterion includes control&navigation, locomotion, level&map design. Sounds quite reasonable as the above criterion covers some cases of nausea causing, like if the control reacts too quickly when you turn around, it’s quite easy to feel dizzy, especially in first person games.

As the technology advances so fast, it’s totally understandable that our body could feel unwell sometimes. Even if unified rating on subjective experience does not work on all users in the same way, but at least we can have a glimpse of the possible discomfort that may included in the game we want to play and prepare for it. The existing game rating systems aim to protect our health both physical and emotional, and if there’s one support that pursuit, why should we reject it? The problem now is not whether to have a comfort rating system for VR games, but how to make it work well for the large variety of VR games and more different genres coming out in the future. If Oculus can invite a more specific and scientific criterion for the intensity of VR games, that’ll be great for gamers and game developers. The age rating systems are not enough to protect gamers ‘ emotional health in VR era.

VR games is now rising rapidly, just see how many orders the major VR devices received, and they are gradually taking over market shares. If we can have a scientific comfort rating system helping both gamers and game developers, guess VR games will run into a more healthy way.